Two weeks later…

Posted May 21st, 2014 in Blog, Featured Comments Off on Two weeks later…

Fostering Ecological Hope
Reflections on Culture and Meaning

by Margaret Swedish

Right – I didn’t exactly get back to that question so quickly, the one about seeing where we are and trying to figure out what that tells us about how to proceed. I appreciate the two comments that were posted here: from Duane Ediger, “It is bewildering. We are ever more frequently brought to places of anguish in our souls.” Yes, if you are deeply in touch with the world around you, sometimes to see and experience what is really happening hurts. And the scale and complexity of our multiple crises are bewildering indeed.

Then from Dave, a word of  hope that the economic indicators are shifting as we head more deeply into crisis, including more studies showing that it would be much cheaper to address climate change now rather than later when the damage really piles up. Of course we know the problem here is that by the time the experience of the damage and danger is felt, we are already very late in the process, too late for any hope of returning to some old normal that is gone from our lives forever.

Today I want to share this article because it begs some real cultural self-reflection and conversation: America Dumbs Down. For me, a baby-boomer who grew up in a generation that deeply valued education, science, knowledge, and curiosity, this is more than disturbing. Is it any wonder that we are in a deep cultural/ethical crisis when we cannot even base our decisions on what Salvadoran Jesuit Jon Sobrino used to refer to as the “really real” world?

I grew up in an era when debates between opposing intellectual giants like Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley were riveting television watched by millions.  Now we have Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity, or even people like Ed Schultz and Al Sharpton, two “liberals” who are always shouting at people through the TV screen. No subtlety there, that’s for sure. No invitation to any deep thinking.

Here’s a photo essay I want to share with you from the Chicago Tribune. It’s about a small community called Marktown that sits on the periphery of the monstrous BP oil refinery in Whiting IN, spreading its tentacle into East Chicago. You can find more of this story in the Trib, but these photos say it all. For me it is a perfect microcosm of where we are now as large energy-based corporations eat up more and more communities for the sake of the exponential growth of the very industries that are bringing so much of our planet to ruin.

Then, as another example, I invite you to click on this page and view the 28-minute documentary on how coal ash pollution is affecting communities, people getting sick and dying, and then ponder what it means that the companies involved and the politicians and agencies with power to do something about this don’t care about these people enough to stop this. Like the tobacco companies, right? whose CEOs knew cigarettes were causing sickness and death, but still went on hiding the evidence and lying for the sake of the bottom line.

How do they live with themselves?

We now know that the ice sheet of Western Antarctica is in irreversible decline meaning we’re headed towards the high end of sea level rise over the next couple of centuries. And we know that, despite the climate change deniers and those in Congress blocking any meaningful action on GHG emissions, the Pentagon is preparing for the instability and violence to come from climate change – water scarcity, drought, hunger, and more. Is that really the government agency we want leading the way on climate change?

US Drought Monitor May 13 2014

You’ve seen this recent US Drought Monitor Map, I have no doubt. It’s been rather ubiquitous. Sit and ponder it a while. Remove all other thoughts from your head and meditate with it. See how it speaks to you. See what it means that most of our culture goes on as if there is nothing here that begs change in our path, in how we need to proceed in coming days. I know here in Wisconsin, some big grocery store chains are participating in new networks to sell locally or regionally farmed produce, and one reason is that they know California and other parts of the West will not be able to provide certain kinds of basic food in the near future, or at least not at affordable prices.

Yes, we are finally beginning to rediscover where food comes from and that things like weather and climate matter when it comes to our future prospects of eating.

So if you have not read my last longish essay, I still invite you to, along with this one, and to share your thoughts either publicly in the comment section or by way of email. I think we all have to share what we’re thinking, feeling, creating, to learn from each other not just how we see the scary realities, but also how we see the paths through them to the New Creation for which so many of us are longing now.

Hope the long holiday weekend can provide some of the quiet time we all need, some rest, some glorious encounters with the spring season with all its fresh scents, renewed life, and promise of harvests to come.



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